Sunday, March 31, 2013

This Is the Day the Lord Has Made


I strive to be filled today with as pure a sense of Easter joy as my boys used to be when they found the baskets of treats the Easter Bunny left for them.  (Look at the face of my #4 son in this photo from Easter morning, 1990; that, my friends, is a look of pure and unadulterated joy!  And awe!  And heart-pounding excitement!)*


*This photo is a favorite among the five Pearl brothers (even the one who hadn't been born yet when it was taken)--so much so that it has become a part of our Easter decor and takes place of pride on the family room mantle.  (And if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you've seen it before...more than once!)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 3 of the Easter Triduum: Holy Saturday

Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of God the Father, we too might live a new life.  If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection.  This we know: our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer.  A man who is dead has been freed from sin.  If we have died with Christ, we believe we are also to live with him.   We know that Christ, once raised from the dead, will never die again; death has no more power over him.  His death was death to sin, once for all; his life is life for God.  In the same way, you must consider yourself dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 6:3-11)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 2 of the Easter Triduum: Good Friday

He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity,
One of those from whom men hide their faces, 
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
While we thought of him as stricken, 
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins,
Upon him was the chastisement that
makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.
(Isaiah 53:3-6)

...he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
And he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.
(Isaiah 53: 12)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 1 of the Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday

Christ gives us the New Covenant; surrounded by His disciples at the Last Supper, He performs the first Mass...
"Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you."  
(John 6:53)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

[Not Really] Wordless Wednesday

I've heard through the grapevine that there's this blogging routine called "Wordless Wednesdays."  I don't think you have to link up with anyone to participate (and if you do, I'm sorry for doing it wrong, but I'm a newbie--in way too many ways to count them all--and I'll try to find out if there's some blog out there I should give credit to).

Anyway, I've already used a bunch of words, so I guess I've disqualified myself.  Therefore, I'm going to use as many words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs as I please for the remainder of this post!

I decided to take a short trip down memory lane today--to Easter 1987, when my three oldest sons were going on four, two and then some, and almost one, and I was minutes away from finding out that #4 was on the way.  At the time, one of my husband's younger brothers was stationed at the same Naval base in FL as my husband, and he and his family lived nearby so we celebrated the holidays together.

Like it or not, I'm taking you on this trip with me.  You're coming--that's all there is to it! And these snapshots--blurry though they might be--are so adorable, no words are really necessary.
Our three oldest boys with their cousin, who was a few months younger than our second son
 (the smiley guy with the blond bowl cut sitting right beside her).  They'd just found the baskets
the Easter Bunny had left for them, and life was very, very good indeed.
Son #2 simply can't wipe the smile off his face!   The twin bowl cuts on our two oldest are killing me here.
And the blur on the right is son #3, who wasn't even a year old yet, but had been on the run for months already.
These two cuzzies, with their chocolate-stained lips, were thick as thieves! 
Well, I've just made myself very happy.  Sorry if that trip we took wasn't as enjoyable for you as it was for me!

And I suppose I'm going to have to work on that whole "wordless" concept!  Some other Wednesday, I guess.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Snail Mail Blessings

I hardly ever get anything personal, fun, or exciting via snail mail anymore.  Most of my correspondence these days happens via cell phone calls, texts, or e-mails (or even blog comments, but not tweets--I'm putting my foot down about the whole Twitter thing).   I guess this just means that I'm exactly like any other human living in the 21st century, but it makes me sort of sad sometimes.

I can still remember--vividly, although it was over 30 years ago--making trips to my campus P.O. box at the College of the Holy Cross, bursting with hope and excitement.  (I can't remember anyone's phone # anymore, because now that I have a "contacts list" on my magical iPhone, memorizing those seven digits is as passe as pet rocks and disco music; but I can still remember my college P.O. box #: 981.)  As I approached the campus center, my pace and my heart rate would both accelerate: would there be a letter in my mailbox from my handsome boyfriend out at Notre Dame (now my husband)?  One written in his rushed and crazy-jaggedy, manly cursive?  "Please, please, please, God--let there be a letter!"  Every time I saw that inimitable handwriting on an envelope, I left that place floating on a cloud.  I still have my husband's college letters stored away in a cardboard box, and I don't believe I'll ever be able to throw them out.

So I have a question for all you young'uns out there: do you print out and save e-mails from your sweethearts in little treasure boxes?  Do sweethearts ever even write actual letters anymore...with pens, on paper?  I hope they do, but I'm concerned that the practice is going to die out just like the dinosaurs, because my husband and I heard a news report recently saying there was a movement to stop teaching cursive to students at school.  When I hear things like that, I think perhaps I'm getting too old for the world we live in.

Anyway, there have been some treasures in my mailbox recently that I thought I'd share with you.  First of all, we have been receiving so many St. Padre Pio-related mailings as of late, most of them addressed to me rather than my husband--and you may recall that he is my patron saint for 2013 (the one randomly chosen for me using the Saints Name Generator).  My husband and I receive lots of religious items from various Catholic organizations (prayer cards and small prayer booklets, holy cards with pictures of saints on them, souvenir Rosaries and saints' medals, etc.).  But I don't ever remember getting so many mailings so close together with information about and small gifts from St. Padre Pio. I am taking this as a sign that my patron is trying to get in touch with me, and when I open up his missives I am almost as excited about them as the lovesick young college girl who ran to P.O. box #981 to look for letters from her boyfriend.
Also, yesterday I received a beautiful hand-crafted Rosary in the mail, a prize I won from a giveaway contest over at a blog I follow called These Little Blessings.  Along with the Rosary she'd made, my blogging friend Sarah Therese included the most lovely handwritten letter, and even her stationery--with a beautiful image of St. Joesph holding the Christ child on it--was a treat to behold.  What a wonderful surprise it was to find this kind of treasure in a pile otherwise composed of bills and junk mail!
Thank you, Sarah Therese!  A handwritten note is on its way right back at ya!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 6

It's that time again--time to join up with the fashion-forward, church-going gals over at Fine Linen and Purple for "What I Wore Sunday."
This week I'm standing in a different spot for my fashion shoot than I usually do, in front of two papal blessings my husband received from American Life League president Judie Brown (for charitable donations he made to ALL in our family's name).  He has one from Pope John Paul II and one from Pope Benedict XVI.  How lucky is he to have been given blessings from two different popes?!

For many years, my husband was fortunate enough to travel to Rome on a pretty regular basis (in his job as an airline pilot), and in 2001 he was able to obtain a papal blessing--with both of our names on it--from JPII, for our 21st wedding anniversary.  There was something lost in the translation, though, because the document actually reads "on the occasion of their 21th Wedding Anniversary."  But we cherish it all the same!

Okay then, here's my Palm Sunday outfit.
~Navy crepe sheath, fully-lined: made on my Kenmore sewing machine using New Look pattern #6270
~Polka dot cardigan: Spence knits (purchased at B.J.'s wholesale club for about 70% off retail)
~Nude-colored opaque tights: Wal-Mart
~Not-too-high-heeled navy pumps: Hush Puppies (I've had them too long to remember where I got them)

The thing I love about this dress is that it's very versatile.  It can be dressy or casual, depending on how you choose to accessorize it.  It's like a LNBD (the navy blue version of the little black dress).
With the cardigan, this princess-seamed sheath is perfect for Mass.  If I wear it with dramatic jewelry and/or a
pashmina over my shoulders instead, it's perfect for a wedding or a night on the town.
I'm wearing a beautiful bracelet that was given to me as a Mother's Day gift by my middle son's girlfriend.  Here's a close-up.
I'm sorry the cross is upside-down in this photo!  But isn't this bracelet unique and lovely?
That's it from here.  Have a happy Holy Week!  (And don't forget to check out all the spiffiness on display over at Fine Linen and Purple.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

My Pie Safe "Pantry"

My kitchen isn't nearly big enough--"big enough" being a relative term, of course. Sometimes I'm convinced that I need a bigger one--because I'm spoiled and tend to confuse the word "need" with the word "want."

It's true, when I was raising my sons, I dreamed of having one of those expansive, open-concept kitchens with long granite counter tops that resemble landing strips for small aircraft.  You know what I'm talking about--a chef's dream of a kitchen, with an island and a breakfast bar and a pantry and so many drawers and cupboards that everything could look neat and tidy behind those closed doors...instead of stacked up and packed in as tightly and creatively as if--as my oldest son and his wife would put it, when describing their own kitchen storage areas--it was all part of a challenging game of Tetris.  (I've never played Tetris, so I really must give credit for that reference to them!)

I have a traditional Colonial-style house, with a first floor that is broken up into separate rooms: kitchen, family room, formal living room, formal dining room, and half-bath.  (It's a beautiful house, but the concept is not the least bit "open.")  I have a quaint and lovely, though dated and modest-sized, kitchen.  We have made it an "eat-in" one, despite the lack of a breakfast nook area, thanks to my carpenter husband, who years ago designed and built the perfect long, narrow trestle table that would make the best use of the space we do have.  (He's my hero, that guy.)  I love our formal dining room, which is absolutely wonderful for big holiday meals; but I've always liked the idea of being able to eat at a cozy kitchen table on an everyday basis.

Yes, when my boys were broad-shouldered teenagers (all five of them six feet tall and then some) there was some bumping and jostling in there if we were all trying to fix ourselves a sandwich at the same time. Yes, I most definitely could have used more floor space/cabinet space/counter top space and every other kind of space kitchens ought to have.  But the bottom line is this: for two decades, I fixed meals for a family of seven in my kitchen, and it seems to have worked for me just fine.

I am, however, always trying to figure out creative ways to get more storage space in there. We only have two Lazy Susan's to hold all the canned and boxed food items.  I used to have a storage cabinet in the basement for stashing extra jars of peanut butter and spaghetti sauce and such, but it was made of cheap particle board and got ruined a few years back when we had a little flooding down there.

Not long afterward, I found the perfect "pantry" for my little kitchen in an antiques/consignment shop downtown that sells lots of refurbished furniture pieces.  It's solid pine (not that awful particle board!), and I believe it's what they used to call a "pie safe."  I don't think it's actually an antique; but it's solid and well-built,  it doesn't take up too much room, and I love the farmhouse look of it.  The best part about it, though, is that it actually has lots of room inside for storing all my excess foodstuffs.  No, wait--the best part is that it only cost me $99.  You'd be hard-pressed to find a new piece like it for that price at a furniture store (or even at Target!).

I just thought I'd post this today to inspire those of you out there who are looking for innovative ways to make your small kitchens more efficient.  And to illustrate that sometimes, a secondhand furniture piece can be even more beautiful and functional (not to mention more affordable) than a new one.

(P.S.: My husband also built the storage cabinet underneath the wall phone in the top photo...and there is a serious game of Tetris going on behind that curtain!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Am I embarrassed of my blog? Hmmm...Good question!

I was reading a blog called "Camp Patton" yesterday, and I came across this post written by the Camps's main counselor (or more accurately, its chief cook and bottle washer), Grace Patton--the hilarious young wife and stay-at-home mom of three small children who has the pithiest way of describing everyday life in her joyful yet chaotic household--titled "Are you embarrassed of your blog?"  (You can read said post here, if you're interested.)

Grace Patton has absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, trust me.  I think she has a legion of loyal followers, and with good reason.  Her blog makes me laugh out loud on a regular basis, and it brings back memories of those long-ago (for me anyway--but it seems like most blogger/blog reader types are a lot younger than I am), indescribably crazy days filled with breast pumps, dirty diapers, pregnancy woes, temper tantrums, car trips from h-e-double toothpicks, and way too many sleepless nights spent taking care of wee "need mongers" (that's what she calls them--I told you she's funny).  This adorable young blogger has more wit in just her pinkie finger than most average humans have in their entire persons, and she is a gift to the blogosphere.

The title of Grace's post really grabbed my attention, because my answer to that question these days is, "Yes, I am...sometimes, anyway."   I've been going through a phase, worrying that I've lost the mojo I used to have.  When I first started this blog two years ago, I actually had a list of topics in my head that I couldn't wait to share with you (or bore you with?), but lately I've been wondering what in the world I'm doing here.

I get embarrassed, I do.  Everybody and his sister is out there blogging these days, writing either very funny, very insightful, very helpful, or very meaningful stuff; and here I am, with my little blog about...nothing.  It worked for Jerry Seinfeld's show, you might recall, but I'm not really sure if it's working for me.
There is no cohesiveness to my little "String of Pearls."  It's not a blog that's focused on a specific area, like DIY projects, or fashion, or recipes, or tips for managing a household filled with youngsters, or ideas for homeschooling projects.  Or the beautiful Catholic Faith, which I touch upon from time to time, but not nearly enough.  (I did, after all, begin this blog with the intention of using it to do my small part in giving glory to God, when so often the Internet is used for the exact opposite purpose.)  Just what is it, then?

My blog is a little this, and a little that, and a little the other (with a lot of bragging about my husband, kids, and grandkids thrown in there for good measure).  It's a bit of a mish-mash and a mess, and lately I've been thinking of just shutting it down.  But I won't, and here's why.  My husband would miss it.  He reads it every day, and when he's away on his trips as an airline pilot, it gives him the comforting feeling that I'm sitting with him and talking his ear off, as usual.  My kids would miss it, and it's another way of keeping connected to them now that most of them live far away.  My baby sister and a few of my nieces and sisters-in-law, who've made reading it (as they sip their morning coffee, if I ever get anything posted early enough for that) one of their daily routines, would miss it--at least that's what they tell me!  So I'll keep blogging for my family.  They have to love me, even when I have nothing whatsoever to say!
So, my dear readers ("Ha!  Did you hear that?  She thinks she has readers!"), I guess I'll see you back here tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

It's the first day of Spring, everyone!  Yippee!  It even says so on the calendar hanging in my kitchen.  Right there in the box for March 20, there's a small reminder that reads "Spring begins."  This is such great news, because winter can seem so cold and gray and ENDLESS up here in our neck of the woods.

But calendars lie (or maybe it's just that New England never seems to get the memo about this), because here's the view out my front porch this morning.

You can't even tell that we have a driveway over yonder, can you?  But despite all the post-blizzard inconveniences involved, there's a sort of terrible beauty in this landscape, isn't there?  (Emphasis on the terrible.)

Thank goodness we have a PLOW GUY these days, because now that our five strong sons have grown up and moved out (and those boys could wield snow shovels like nobody's business!  They were pros!), storms like this one are more than my husband and I can deal with on our own.  And this one hit when he was away on a trip!  If I'd had to figure out how to dig out of this mess all by my lonesome...I shudder to think about it.  I couldn't even hope for a kindly neighbor riding over on a snow blower, like a knight in shining armor, to save me.  Nobody around here does their own snow removal.  They all use the same plow guy. They've used him for years, while we held out as long as we could and depended on the cheap labor provided by our children.  But now he's our guy, too.

On mornings such as this, though, I wonder: do we have the wrong kind of guy?  Now that we're grandparents, aren't we supposed to move down to Florida and get ourselves a POOL GUY?

It's tempting, let me tell you.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

When It Rains, It Pours!

Okay, in yesterday's post I told you I'd been tagged/nominated by a blogger friend named Erica over at Boys, Books, and Balls for "Five Things" and a Liebster Award (I'm not really sure what that's all about, but it was fun coming up with answers to the questions she sent me).  I, in turn, was asked to tag/nominate five other bloggers, and one of my choices was Maggie over at Regency Catholic.  Well, Maggie turned around and tagged me back!  So I'm not really sure what the protocol is here, and whether or not you're allowed to participate in a round 2 of the process.  But I liked Maggie's 10 questions so much that I thought I'd answer them today, even though I just answered Erica's questions in yesterday's post.  (I hope I don't have to tag/nominated anyone new this time around, because I don't think I have enough blogging friends--ones who haven't been tagged/nominated already--to do that!)

As for the whole "Five Things" you might not know about me...hmmmm.  Let's see.  (Are you getting sick of me yet?)   1. I'm allergic to dust and bees and I take allergy shots.  2. I can't eat pineapple--it literally makes me gag.  3. I'm afraid of snakes and frogs (this was a real handicap for a mother who raised five boys).  4. My favorite part of Christmas when I was growing up was opening my stocking--which was the first thing I saw when I woke up because since we didn't have a fireplace, Santa left it at the end of my bed!  5. I often cry when I Confess my sins to the priest.

Here are Maggie's awesome questions.

1.  What's your favorite novel?  This is a tough one, because there are five or six that I absolutely love; but because it was the first book that inspired me to want to be a writer, I have to choose To Kill a Mockingbird.  (How thrilled I was when Harper Lee was given an honorary degree at my oldest son's Notre Dame graduation in 2006!)

 2. Do you sometimes catch yourself doing things that would fall under the category of O.C.D., and if so, what is your most frequent?  Yes!  My husband and I will be an hour into a car trip, and I'll suddenly feel convinced that I forgot to turn off my coffee maker.  I've actually called our neighbor and told him where to find our fake rock "hide-a-key" thingy so he could go in and double-check for me.  You'd think after a couple of incidents like this, I'd just go ahead and purchase a coffee maker with an automatic shut-off feature!  (I really have to do that.)  I recently found out that someone I know takes a cell phone photo of her curling iron whenever she leaves home, so she can look at the picture and know for sure that she didn't forget to turn it off.  (I may have to do that, too.)

3. If you could go back in time and be one person, who would it be and why?  I've often thought it would be awesome to be Dismas, the "good thief," because he heard from the very lips of Christ that he would be joining Him in Paradise that very day.  But I really don't think I'd want to be anyone else.  I wouldn't mind being me in high school again, back when I first started falling in love with my husband (at 15).  I also wouldn't mind going back to the days when I was a young mother and my sons were small--but not for long, because I'd miss the men they've become too much.

4. If you could go back in time and talk to one United States president, who would it be, why, and what would you say?  I would love to have a conversation with Ronald Reagan, who I believe was an exceptional leader and a man to be admired.  (Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King is a great book, if you'd like to learn more about him.)  I would tell him we sure do miss him now around these parts.

5. What goes on your tacos on taco night?  Love taco night!  I like soft shells best, and ground pork instead of ground beef, topped with taco sauce (medium), lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and sometimes sour cream.

6. Worst movie ever, and why?  I've suffered through some bad movies in my day, but the one that sticks out is "MacGruber," a comedy based on a series of extremely silly SNL skits (poking fun at the TV show "MacGiver") that made my family laugh out loud.  My husband and I went to the theater with our oldest son, his wife, and a couple of our younger sons to see the movie adaptation of those skits, starring Will Forte and Kristin Wiig.  It was so bad--so crude and vulgar and filled with embarrassing levels of inappropriateness--that we actually walked out not long after it started.  I give it two enthusiastic thumbs DOWN.  (Hey, I just realized that since I never saw the whole thing, I have no right to rate the quality of that movie...)

7. Type of person you are afraid to talk to.  Right now, I think it would be the talented and successful writers/authors/bloggers I've "met" on-line in the process of trying to market my novel Finding Grace.  I have had the most lovely e-mail, Facebook, and blogging "conversations" with a host of these writers who have been so incredibly kind to me, have offered to write reviews of my book, and have posted my title on their websites.  Some of them seem like friends, even though we've never met.  I fear that if I actually met them in person and tried to talk to them, they would discover that I'm not all that interesting!  I am so in awe of their work in the world of writing, I fear I would just spend my time with them wondering why in the world they would want to talk to little old me!

8. You are going out to dinner at a relatively nice restaurant, when you get dressed, what adds panache to your derring-do?  I don't do "panache" all that well.  But when I want to look more dressed up, I usually add a pearl necklace and earrings.

9. How many times a month does pizza night occur at your house?  When our boys lived at home, four or five.  (That was our go-to meatless Friday night dinner throughout the year.)  Now that my husband and I are empty-nesters, we might get it once a month.

10. What's your favorite devotion?  The Rosary.

Thanks, Maggie!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Liebster and 5 Things

I was just tickled when my friend Erica over at Boys, Books, and Balls tagged me for "Five Things" and nominated me for a Liebster Award.  I'm not sure where "Five Things" originated, but the Liebster started out in Germany.  This blogging award carries with it no trophy or cash prize, but is a great way for bloggers to help their friends--friends whose blogs have less than 200 followers--possibly gain a few more readers.  I think it's a very sweet gesture to be nominated among those of us who plug away at our smaller, lesser-known blogs.  It makes you realize that even if you only touch one person, it's totally worth it.

Okay, I'm not the most interesting person in the world, so I'm not sure what five things I can tell you about myself that you'd really want to know.  Wait a minute, there we go.  I've got #1.

I feel like I'm more interesting on paper than I am in person.  (My husband would tell you differently, but he's incredibly biased.)  I'm a bit on the shy side and have a horror of suddenly finding myself at a table full of people where all the other conversation has stopped and everyone is looking at me while I tell some not-very-scintillating story.  One-on-one I do okay; but in a group, if I ever have the floor I find that my voice weakens, my throat gets dry, and I start staring at the tablecloth in order to avoid eye contact...A storyteller I am NOT--in person, anyway.  When I write, I think I sound a lot more interesting (or maybe not--but I hope so!).  So blogging is the greatest invention for me, because I can tell my stories uninterrupted, without having to see that inevitable moment when people's eyes start glazing over and they look for someone more interesting to talk to...Hey!  I'm still talking here!  Where do you think you're going?  (Ha ha.)

I think I always knew that I would give birth to only sons.  My high school sweetheart and I, after, 6 and 1/2 years of dating, got engaged over Christmas break our senior year in college.  And shortly afterward, my best college friend and I were talking about having kids--how many we hoped to have and stuff like that.  She asked me if I could have only all boys or all girls, which would I choose?   I immediately said, "I want both, of course," but she persisted, "But what if you had to choose?"  I thought it over for about a split second and blurted, "All boys."  She agreed.  And the funny thing is, I had five boys and she had four (but then her last child was a little girl).  I think God had already planted the seed in my head that my life would be filled with snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, and that was just fine by me.

I started out my college career as a biology major.  Big mistake.  In high school, biology was my favorite out of all the sciences (not just because it was so interesting, but because math was the least involved).  I had a vague dream of working in a lab and doing terribly noble things like helping to find a cure for cancer.  But after losing a terrifying battle with chemistry and calculus as a freshman, I made the switch to English major and spent the rest of my years at Holy Cross doing the reading and writing I loved so much.  I don't think I would have survived college if I hadn't made the switch to something I was naturally good at and enjoyed.

When my boys were growing up, I could not bear the idea of boarding an airplane and leaving them--and mind you, I am married to an airline pilot and can fly anywhere in the world I want to go, for free, as a stand-by passenger.  I had to do so once, when my four oldest were 7, 6, 4, and 3 (after writing tearful good-bye letters to my most-likely-to-be-left-motherless babies).  My grandmother had died and all four of my siblings were making the trip down to FL to offer my grandfather and my mom support.  I knew that if I said I wasn't coming, it would be unforgivable--after all, I was the only one who didn't even need to buy a ticket to get there.  I went, but I must admit something a little embarrassing: alcohol was involved.  On the way there, but even more so on the way back.  As we made our final descent into Boston, I kept trying to say Our Father's and Hail Mary's, and I kept losing my place and having to start over.  I had imbibed way too much liquid courage, to put it mildly; and the first thing my husband said (with a grin and a definite twinkle in his eye) when I met him and the boys at the gate was, "You've been drinking!"   And I was flabbergasted that it was even noticeable, so I said, "How can you tell?"  We laugh about that now, and it really is funny because I rarely drink, and when I do I might have one Mike's Hard Lemonade.  But on that trip, I was drinking Scotch on the rocks!

From the time I was about 10 or 11, after I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, I dreamed of one day writing a novel.  I was surprised when I learned that that one masterpiece was the only book Harper Lee ever wrote--which is sad, really, because she was obviously one of the most gifted writers ever; and from that point on, I knew that I wanted to try to write a novel--just one novel--in my lifetime.  My book is no To Kill a Mockingbird, but I am thrilled that I was able to accomplish that lifelong dream of mine.

Okay, I just looked over Erica's "Five Things," and I fear I've been too long-winded.  So I'll try to be brief when I answer the 10 Liebster questions she has for me.

1.  If you had to choose three books to read for the rest of your life, what would they be?  (Book series can count as one book.)
Pride & Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Graham Greene's The End of the Affair.  Also Wuthering Heights.  And Gone with the Wind.  Woopsie, I guess three is not enough!  (I just realized I should have included the Bible, and I feel terrible.  But the aforementioned books are ones I've re-read too many times to count, and even so, I never get tired of them.)

2. If you could have a conversation with one woman in the Bible which lady would you choose and why?
Hands down, Mary.  I'm currently reading The Song of Bernadette, and I'm so in awe that Mary repeatedly appeared to and spoke with that  humble 14-year-old girl.  Imagine having a conversation with Our Blessed Mother!  When I was little, I used to stare at statues of Mary in church and will them to come to life.  As an adult, my wise husband reminded me that such a great privilege is almost always accompanied by unimaginable suffering (and I'm sure God knows I'm much too weak to bear that kind of cross).

3. Were you a girly girl or a tomboy when you were growing up?
Can I say both?  Definitely more girly girl--I played house, loved dolls, and dreamed of being a mommy.  But I never painted my toenails or fingernails, I liked sports (both watching and participating), and I was especially close to my older brother.  So maybe there was a little tomboy in there, too.

4. If you could visit another time period which one would you choose?
Oooh, that's a toss-up.  I'm a real Jane Austen/19th-century English lit fan, so I think it would be fun to go back to that time period in England.  I also love to read WWII-era stories, so the other period I'd like to visit  would be the 1930's through the 50's in this country. 

5.  Is there a movie you're looking forward to seeing in the theater this year?  And if so, which one?
Not that I can think of.  (The new Les Mis has already come and gone, after all.)  But I am looking forward to the next season of PBS's "Downton Abbey"!!

6. Winter, spring, summer, or fall?  Favorite season of the year and why.
Fall, definitely.  I love everything about it: the crisp (but not yet freezing!) air; the colors of the leaves; football games; wearing coats (Yippee!  I don't like summer clothing and exposed skin--I love piling on the layers!); the anticipation of the holidays.  Fall is the best!

7.  Do you ever dream of taking a vacation alone or with a couple of close girlfriends?  If so, where would you go and what would you do?
No, I'd so much rather take a vacation with my husband.  We'd love to go to Rome together.  He's been there multiple times for his job, and it's his favorite destination; but I have yet to visit the Eternal City.  Someday...

8. Night owl, or morning person?
Can you be both?  My husband and I both like to stay up late, a habit we got into when our boys were still living under our roof.  (We liked to have a little "us" time after they'd gone to bed.)  But I also love the early morning hours, having my coffee and getting a jump on the day.  I've never been able to sleep in til noon, not even when I was a college kid.  Actually, I wish sleep wasn't such a necessity--I'd skip it altogether!

9. What is your favorite dessert?
Hardest question ever!  But if I had to choose only one dessert to have for the rest of my life, I think it would be a good, old-fashioned, homemade chocolate chip cookie.  Or soft-serve vanilla ice cream.  Or solid milk chocolate. Or wedding-style yellow cake with white frosting.  Sorry, I guess I'll go with the chocolate chip cookie.

10. How many states have you visited?
23: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin.  We've passed through many other states during car trips, but I'm not sure that counts as "visiting."

That's WAY more than enough about me.  Now I'd like to tag these blogging friends for "Five Things" and nominate them for the Liebster:

Renee over at Morning Glory
Kate over at Something Ivory
Maggie over at Regency Catholic
Mary over at Passionate Perseverance

Some of you may have been tagged/nominated already, or you may not be interested in participating.  But if you'd like to play along then:

1. Tell five things about yourself most people don't know.
2. Answer my questions (below).
3. Tag/nominate five (or more, if you wish) other bloggers who have 200 followers or less.
4. Ask them your new questions.
5. Have fun!

Here are my questions:

1. Would you rather read the book or see the movie?
2. Are you a coffee drinker?  And if you are, do you like a good old-fashioned cup of regular joe--or do you prefer fancier stuff, like lattes and cappuccinos and such?  (Don't be afraid to tell me if you prefer tea to coffee; I can take it.)
3. When your hair starts turning gray, do you plan to color it or just go au naturel?
4. Does the movie Dumb and Dumber make you laugh?  (This is a safe place; you can admit it here if it does.)  If not, what movie makes you LOL every time?
5. In your opinion, is sushi truly delicious or is it just something you're supposed to like because it's en vogue?
6. Are you fluent in any other language besides English?
7. Have you ever traveled overseas?  If so, where?  And if not, would you like to?
8. How long have you been a blogger (and what got you started)?
9. Regarding the most essential food of all, chocolate, which do you prefer: milk or dark?
10. Do you own a Kindle?  And if so, would you rather read an eBook or an actual book?  (I just realized I'm not even giving you the option of telling me you don't like to read books at all!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 5

It's that time again!  It's Sunday, the Lord's day, and a glorious morning it is indeed up here in New England!  There's still a good amount of snow on the ground, but there are also some promising signs that winter is at long last coming to an end.

My husband and I went to anticipated Mass yesterday afternoon.  We wanted to go to Confession, which is from 3:00 to 4:00 and followed immediately by the 4:00 Mass; so although we prefer to attend on Sunday morning, we decided to just plan to stay for Mass afterwards.  He has to go on a trip today anyway, and I've decided to drive to my parents' house in Upstate NY to see how they're doing, and now I can use these morning hours to make him a bacon and egg brunch before he has to leave for a few days.

Soooo, in case you're wondering why in the world I'm not wearing GREEN on ST. PATRICK'S DAY in these pictures, it's because they were taken yesterday.  I chose to wear something purple, in honor of both the Lenten season and the name of the blog that hosts this weekly event.  This is one of my most favorite dresses, something I picked up when it was on clearance (of course).
Breakdown of the outfit:
Knit dress: Coldwater Creek
Opaque tights: Wal-Mart
Faux "patent leather" flats: Dexter, from Payless ($8 on sale!  I've had them for years and I'm wearing them out.  Comfiest shoes ever--I wish I'd bought every pair like them in my size when I had the chance!)
Pearl necklace: JCrew (a gift from my #3 son this past Christmas)
I love this necklace!  (What could be better than a string of pearls--or four of them?)   It actually had a fifth strand of pearls on it, which I removed because that one hung way further down from the other four strands and
looked a bit out of place.  I plan to make some matching earrings with it, and perhaps a bracelet, too.

I still can't believe these shoes were only $8.
Even though it was the day before St. Patty's when these pictures were taken, fear not--I WAS wearing my little bit 'o Irish.  It's something I always wear: a gold Claddaugh ring that my husband bought for me in Dublin way back when we were juniors in college.  He went to Ireland on a rugby trip when he was at Notre Dame, and when I went to visit him out in South Bend during my spring break he presented me with it.  By that time we'd been dating about six years, but this was the first serious piece of jewelry he ever gave me, so I cherish it to this day.
The Band-Aids are a nice touch, don't you think?  Not to mention my poor, manicure-starved fingernails.
Whenever my husband takes fashion photos for my WIWS posts at our house, I stand in front of this framed "Irish Marriage Blessing."  My late mother-in-law, a woman of deep faith and boundless love for the homeland of her father (who hailed from County Cork) gave this to each of her children when they got married.  In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd share it with you here.


May God be with you and bless you
May you see your children's children
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in blessings
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward

God bless you on the feast of St. Patrick!  And now, head on over to see what all the fashion-forward lasses at Fine Linen and Purple are wearing today!

Friday, March 15, 2013

"7 Quick Takes Friday" #9: the Monticello Edition

--- 1 ---
While sons #3 and #4 were at work on Wednesday, my husband, youngest son, and I took a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's spectacular (and spectacularly preserved) mansion that sits atop a hill overlooking beautiful Charlottesville, VA.  It was awesome (and I know I'm using that seriously overused term yet again in this blog; but truly, the shoe fits here).

We spent a wonderful, wonderful afternoon, taking a tour of the beloved home that Jefferson designed himself and learning just how much of a genius this Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of VA, and third President of the United States really was.

Jefferson was a man who had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about an endless number of subjects, and he kept copious notes on everything that interested him.  He was an inventor, an architect, a farmer, a surveyor, a scientist, an avid reader and letter-writer, and a man who was fluent in seven languages (and was in the process of teaching himself an eighth language when he died at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826--on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and within hours of our second President, John Adams).  My husband and I couldn't figure out how Jefferson did all that he did--and the above list of his interests and accomplishments doesn't even tell the whole story--yet had time to serve two terms as President as well.

If you ever get a chance to visit Monticello, I highly recommend it.  It is an utterly and completely fascinating place.  You might come away from there wondering if Thomas Jefferson was some kind of obsessive-compulsive overachiever who must have been able to function on little-to-no sleep, or if it's just that you yourself are a bit on the lazy side in comparison.  As my niece joked at dinner Wednesday night, "It makes me wonder how much I could accomplish if I didn't watch so much TV!"  (We had just been talking about our shared obsession with the PBS series "Downton Abbey.")

Anyhoo--one of the great unintended consequences of my visit to Monticello is that I think it gave me at least 7 "takes" for my post today.  Woo hoo!
--- 2 ---
Jefferson, like Washington, was a tall man for his time.  He stood at 6 feet-2 and 1/2 inches, and he slept in a bed that was exactly 6'3" long.  My sons who are about the same height say that that was simply not enough leg room--that the bed should have been 7' long at least, or it would have been completely uncomfortable.  But our tour guide told us that in the 18th century, it was common to sleep in a semi-propped-up position, so TJ probably thought his bed was plenty long enough.

By the way, Jefferson was just about the same height as my baby.  Here's the proof.
--- 3 ---
After visiting Monticello, I've decided that my late-80's small-ish and somewhat dated kitchen is more than adequate, thank you very much.  Somehow, Jefferson's kitchen staff was able to produce two fabulous meals a day for the upstairs folks (meals heavily influenced by the gourmet French cuisine Jefferson had learned about in his travels abroad) using this basement space.  C'mon, reallly?  Yikes.  Let me rephrase that.  YIKES.
--- 4 ---
Ditto as far as my dated late-80's bathrooms.  Compared to Monticello's facilities, the ones in my house are fit for king!  (Or a president!)  I'm sure that back in Jefferson's day, it was a great luxury just to have an indoor privy, instead of an outside latrine that meant you were forced to brave the cold night air in order to take care of nature's business.  But again...YIKES.  I often say that I think I was born too late and would have enjoyed living in old-fashioned times.  You have my permission to slap me if I ever utter those crazy words again.
--- 5 ---
The original house Thomas Jefferson shared with his wife (and their first child) was a good bit humbler than Monticello.  Before he and Martha went movin' on up (to the East Side; get it? "The Jeffersons"?), they lived in an extremely humble abode.  While Monticello was being built, they inhabited this tiny, one-room brick house that still exists behind the mansion proper.
--- 6 ---
Speaking of "Downton Abbey" (we did speak of it, back in #1 above--remember?), I was reminded of the show while we toured the basement rooms of Monticello.  In the area where the dumb waiters (used for sending bottles of wine upstairs) were located, along with the intricate bell system for beckoning the servants to different parts of the house, we saw this.  Downton fans, does this familiar image ring a bell? 
--- 7 ---
Of course, we couldn't leave Monticello without first stopping by the museum gift shop to spend way more money than should have.  We chose some fun shot glasses for our sons, a leather-bound book filled with Jefferson's famous quotes for my husband, and a small blue-and-white transferware plate for me--made not in China, but in Staffordshire, England.  Like the Colonials, I have a soft spot for pottery from the Mother Land.
If you've been to Monticello, this post was probably a bit of a yawn-fest for you.  But if you haven't, I thought it might get you inspired to make the trip someday.  It is so worth it, believe me.

Okay, I'm already late getting this post up.  In less than half an hour, it won't even be Friday anymore!  But my husband and I were on the road all day today, making the 12-hour drive back from VA after a great visit with some of our gang.  Then we got home and my computer crashed, and my husband had to figure out how to reboot it and get it up and running again for me.  Better late than never, though.  And don't forget to go over to Conversion Diary for more "7 Quick Takes Friday" fun.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Have a Boy...or Two...or Five

Years and years ago, shortly after we welcomed our third son into the family, my father-in-law gave my husband a framed poem that had been given to him when he was a young father.  He said, "I think it's time to pass this along to you now."

My husband, who has made being the father of sons a vocation and an art form, loves this poem.  I've shared it with you before, back when I was a newbie blogger, so I'm kind of repeating myself here.  But as son #3 was getting ready to leave for work this morning, he asked me what I was planning to blog about today and I really didn't know yet.  "What in the world do I have to say anymore that I haven't said a thousand times already?" is what I was thinking.

Okay, I've only written 681 posts since I started this blog on March 7, 2011...but still, I've said A LOT of the same things A LOT of times already.

Quick digression: I just realized that I meant to celebrate this blog's two year mark, but I totally missed the anniversary date.  Actually, I'm glad I did--that means my real life was so busy and full (we were out in CO at the time, staying with our oldest son and his adorable family) that it took precedence over my on-line life!  Thank goodness!

Anyway, back to my fast-paced, action-packed story!  My middle son is one of my most faithful followers and I didn't want to disappoint him, so I sat here in front of my laptop deep in thought, trying to come up with something new and interesting to talk about.  Many of the Catholic bloggers I read are writing beautiful and inspiring pieces about the papal conclave, and I feel a little guilty that I haven't been focusing on matters of Faith at this very important moment in the history of the Catholic Church.  Perhaps, I thought, it was time to start writing posts with a little more gravitas (not that yesterday's post about dogs wasn't weighty enough), but my brain was pretty much filled with thoughts of my boys (surprise, surprise), especially because my husband and I are sleeping under the same roof with three of them this week.  It was only yesterday that all five of them slept under the same roof, with us.  It was only yesterday that they looked like this.
My boys!  (All six of them.)
But thank God time does indeed move forward, and boys like these grow into fine, upstanding men who go out into the world and make a difference...and who bring lovely girls into our family.
My girls!  (Son #1's wife and daughters.)
And that wouldn't have happened if they hadn't had an excellent role model in their father. So without further ado, here is that poem I promised to share (again).

I Have a Boy

I’ve a wonderful boy, and I say to him, “Son,
Be fair and be square in the race you must run.
Be brave if you lose and be meek if you win,
Be better and nobler than I’ve ever been.
Be honest and noble in all that you do,
And honor the name I have given to you.”

I have a boy and I want him to know
We reap in life just about as we sow,
And we get what we earn, be it little or great,
Regardless of luck and regardless of fate.
I will teach him and show the best that I can
That it pays to be honest and upright, a man.

I will make him a pal and a partner of mine,
And show him the things in this world that are fine.
I will show him the things that are wicked and bad,
For I figure this knowledge should come from his dad.
I will walk with him, talk with him, play with him, too;
And to all of my promises strive to be true.

We will grow up together, I’ll too be a boy,
And share in his trouble and share in his joy.
We’ll work out our problems together and then
We will lay out our plans when we both will be men.
And oh, what a wonderful joy this will be,
No pleasure in life could be greater to me.

                        -Hugh M. Pierce

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dog, Man's Bestest Friend

I'm sorry, but when it comes to our dog friends, the word "best" just doesn't begin to describe it.  A dog is a man's bestest friend ever--his buddy for life, his biggest fan of all time, the only creature on earth that doesn't care how rich, handsome, or successful he is. To quote Louis Saban, "No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich."  Dogs love you no matter what; dogs never dump people.

We are staying in VA with two of our sons, and that means we're also staying with their better halves as well.  They're not married yet, so when I say "better halves," I'm talking about their doggies.

First we have Allie, a Plott Hound/Retriever mix that my #3 son adopted from his aunt several years ago.  Allie is a brindle-coated beauty, a wise old lady who would be about 84 in people years but doesn't act a day over 42.  She's still got a lot of energy and spunk in her, although her face has gotten very white and her eyes are beginning to show signs of developing cataracts.
This saying hijacked from a random Pinterest board says it all about Allie: "My face may be white, but my heart is pure gold.  There is no shame in growing old."

Allie is the greatest dog.  In a nutshell, she is made up of PURE LOVE.  To quote Josh Billings, "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you even more than you love yourself."  Yep, that's Allie.  Another great--and oh-so-true--quote from an anonymous source is "May you be half the man your dog thinks you are."  Allie again.  That old girl makes me feel like the most important person in the world--but I really shouldn't let it go to my head, because she treats most humans exactly the same way she treats me.  A great watchdog she is not, since she absolutely adores everyone on sight.  As my son said, if a burglar came into the house, she would probably love him, too, and try to lick his face; and if she could talk she'd whimper,"Rub my belly and you can take anything in the house."

Allie likes to lick people.  A lot.  On the face.  On the legs.  Pretty much anywhere tasty human skin is exposed.  Sometimes, she even licks my jeans.  While I can't quite bring myself to let her give me dog kisses on the mouth (and the jeans licking is a bit much), I agree with the anonymous on-line sage who said, "There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."

Are you beginning to wonder if I Googled "Quotes about dogs" this morning?  You're right, I did.  That's where I found this little nugget by James Thurber: "Dogs are obsessed with being happy."  We humans could take a page out of their playbook, couldn't we?  I'd like to be as happy and see things as simply as Allie does.

Son #4 rescued his German Shepherd/Lab mix Finnegan ("Finny" for short) from the animal shelter about a year and a half ago.  Finny was about six months old when my son got him. He'd been mistreated and/or neglected in his first home, so he was jumpy and rather wild, and he had serious separation anxiety issues.  He became instantly and furiously attached to his new master.  When my son leaves the house, he whines in the most pathetic way and stares at the door until he returns.  (Unless, of course, you think to distract him with treats; the trauma of separation lessens a little bit when food is involved.)  Finny's love for my son is deep--painfully deep.  This is Finny last night, staring at the door and anxiously awaiting the return of his master, who'd left briefly to walk his girlfriend home.
Just try keeping Finny off that couch.  He really does think he's people.

Finny and Allie have regulation dog beds on the floor next to son #4's queen-sized bed, but they always vacate them and sleep in his bed with him.  How he deals with the dog hair (not to mention the dog smell!) is beyond me.  But he says it doesn't bother him a bit.  Finny, who truly thinks he's a human, likes to get right under the covers and snuggle, and my son says I should come and see it because he's sure I'd think it was the cutest thing in the world.  (I'm sure he's right, so note to self: I must remember to go take a peek at them tonight before I turn in.)

Dogs love their people so much that they can't get enough of them.  "When dogs leap onto your bed, it's because they adore you.  When cats leap onto your bed, it's because they adore your bed." (~Alisha Everett)

Okay, I was not planning to have this devolve into a post about how much better dogs are than cats...but get ready, because that's what's happening.  I can totally relate to James Thurber, who said, "I am not a cat man, but a dog man, and all felines can tell this at a glance--a sharp, vindictive glance."  Cats just don't love you the way dogs do, and don't try to convince me that they do.

Finny is a very smart dog, and he has a way of tilting his head when you talk to him so that it looks like he's seriously trying to understand what you're saying.  It makes him pretty much irresistible.  "A dog's head tilt," you know, "is Kryptonite to humans.  We're powerless when exposed to it."  That Anonymous really knows what he's talking about, doesn't he?  That's a dog's secret superpower: the head tilt thing.
You're probably thinking that with all the important things going on in the world today--things that will greatly affect the future of our country and our Church--dogs is a pretty weak topic for a Catholic blogger to go on and on about.  But even St. Thomas More, a famous martyr for the Faith (and proof that saints are not the humorless people some think they are), had this to say about man's bestest friend: "Whoever loveth me, loveth my hound."  So in my opinion, if a great saint such as he could appreciate the value of our canine friends, there certainly can be no shame in calling yourself a dog-lover.

I just love my [extremely spoiled] grandpuppies...But truly, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to love them!  They ARE the bestest.
Love me, love my hounds.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Best B & B Ever!

My husband and I are in northern VA, staying at a house shared by sons #3 and #4 (and a third roommate who is currently on deployment).  When we arrived last night, we were shown to the bedroom we'd be sleeping in--son #3's room, which he has vacated for us to use while we're here.

Keep in mind, before I show you the bed that will be ours for the next several days, that not that long ago this son was sleeping on sheets that hadn't been changed in a dog's age, with nothing more than a worn and faded Notre Dame comforter that he's had since he was in grade school to constitute what finer folks would call "bed linens."

Mothers of young boys, take heart; they DO grow up.  Because look at my boy's bed now.
The last time we visited this son, his bed was on a simple metal frame; but check out the beautiful wood headboard he's bought for himself.  And there's a matching dresser to go with that headboard.  My boy has a real BEDROOM SET--and not only that, but clean, color-coordinated bedding and...THROW PILLOWS!  The mind boggles.  I think his bed is more luxurious and HGTV-worthy than his mom and dad's now.

The funny thing is that yesterday morning, about an hour after my husband and I got on the road to make the long trip down here, it hit me that maybe it would have been a good idea to bring along a couple of bath towels, just to be safe.  Twenty-something bachelors, in my husband's and my experience thus far, aren't apt to have many clean ones about.  Oh well, I thought, if worse comes to worse, we can always run out to Wal-Mart and buy some, or borrow a couple from my husband's sister, who lives a few doors down.  But not to worry: there was a set of brand-new, freshly-laundered bath towels sitting there atop the comforter. Towels that actually matched the lovely bedding!

As if the comfy digs weren't enough to make us feel welcome, there was a gift bag sitting there atop the comforter, along with a card signed by both boys and their darling girlfriends; and inside the bag we found a bottle of wine, two wine glasses from a local vineyard, chocolates, and a list of vineyards to visit if we're looking for something fun to do during the day while our boys are at work.  It's like we booked a room at the best B & B ever!
Yes, they do grow up.  But I've said this before in this blog, and I'll say it again: even when they do, they keep a little bit of boy inside them (mine do, at least).  Son #3 is almost 27 now, but did you happen to notice the little green triceratops night light peeking out behind the wine glass on the left?

And in the kitchen, there are Calvin & Hobbes drawings, by son #4 and his girlfriend, on the dry erase note board.
It's kind of nice to see that the little boys live on, even in this neat and tidy, beautifully decorated, thoroughly grown-up house.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 4

It's that time again--time to join all the gals over at Fine Linen and Purple for another Sunday fashion extravaganza!  I am really starting to look forward to these link-ups!  And I normally shrink and make odd faces when I know a camera is pointed at me, but my husband has signed on as my personal fashion photographer, and I've been trying my best to just relax and smile.  (I've also learned a neat little trick from my #3 son's girlfriend that helps to minimize the double chin effect that has plagued me my whole life in pictures: you stick your chin OUT, and then DOWN.  It feels awkward, but it seems to work.  Out and down, that's my mantra these days!)

So anyway, here's what I wore Sunday Saturday, for the 4:00 anticipated Mass I attended with my husband.  (We knew we wouldn't be able to go to church today, because we're getting in the car as early as we possibly can to start a 12-hour trip to VA to visit with sons #3 and #4, who live there, and son #5, who flew down yesterday for his week-long spring break from Notre Dame.)
Breakdown of the outfit:
Paisley cardigan: Talbot's (marked down drastically--otherwise way, way too expensive)
Denim skirt: consignment shop
Off-white opaque tights: Wal-Mart (I suspect this is considered a fashion no-no, unless you're a nurse...and it's 1950.)
Navy leather flats: Dexter, from a shoe outlet
Freshwater pearl necklace and earrings: gifts from my husband
Detail on the sweet cardigan: beading!
I thought I'd also include a picture of the coat I wore over my outfit, as well as my lace chapel veil, or mantilla.  (The last time I featured a veil in my WIWS post, I was surprised and delighted to learn that it had inspired a couple of women who were considering adopting the practice.)
Chocolate brown veil: made by yours truly, with lace and trim from JoAnn's (I like brown because it sort of blends in with my hair; soon, I'll need a silver-colored one!)
Blue trench coat: Kenneth Cole, from Sam's Wholesale Club (just under $10, I kid you not!)

After Mass, we ran into a dear old friend, the octogenarian nun who used to be the principal of the Catholic K-8 grade school that our five boys attended (until we decided to homeschool our youngest son from grades 3 to 8).  We hadn't seen her in awhile, and she wanted to know how all the boys were doing.  And at one point I said, "The only hard thing is that most of them live pretty far away," and suddenly I was choked up and on the verge of serious tears.

What that incident made me realize is that God gives each of us crosses, but they're all different--and He only gives us what he knows we can handle.  I've often wondered why my life has been so incredibly blessed--why I haven't been asked to bear the really tough burdens that I see others carrying.  Neither my husband nor I have ever been afflicted with cancer (unless you count a few basal cell carcinomas, which a friend of mine said are basically considered no more than skin "rust"), or with any other serious illnesses.  Our children are all healthy, intelligent, gainfully employed, church-going, loving, and thriving. Our oldest son and his wife just welcomed their third precious daughter into the world. Why, I wonder, do others suffer so, when God seems to have given me a pass in the suffering department?

But when I felt myself losing it in front of Sister yesterday after Mass, it hit me: I miss having all of my children about me, and seeing them every day; and that, for now anyway, is my cross.  It's a meager cross, compared to the weight borne by so many other people; but it's mine, and if I own it as God's will for me and bear it with grace and courage, then...well, it can only help me get where I want to go.

But in the meantime, how can I be anything but happy?  I just returned from a two-week visit with my oldest son and his family.  By tonight, I will be with sons #3, #4, and #5.  And son #2, thankfully, lives just an hour away--and when I get back from VA, I'm going to go see him and give him the biggest bear hug of all time!

God is good, and I absolutely believe that He knows what's best for each of us.  Even when we think we know better.

I must go now, the road beckons--but I hope you have an absolutely glorious Sunday!  And don't forget to check out all the faith-filled fashionistas over at Fine Linen and Purple.  ;)